Date: July 23, 1999
RTS No. 914
CC File No. 5559
Council: July 27, 1999
Vancouver City Council
Manager - Rapid Transit Project, in consultation with the General Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of Central Area Planning
SkyTrain Alignment West of Commercial Drive
A. THAT in response to the Negotiator's Agreement, Council prefers in principle the North Alignment from the Commercial station through the Grandview Cut to the north side of Vancouver Community College as shown generally in Appendix A.
B. THAT Council's preference in RECOMMENDATION A assumes the SkyTrain alignment will continue from the station on the north side of VCC, through the Finning site to a second station on the Finning site, to a tunnel portal in the vicinity of Prince Edward Street, and continue to an underground station in the vicinity of Main and Broadway as shown in Appendix A-1 (the "Finning to Main Extension").
C. THAT RECOMMENDATION A is conditional upon Rapid Transit Project2000 by September 30 , 1999 unless the City agrees to an extension to that date:
1. completing the preliminary engineering work and finalizing the cost estimates for the Finning to Main Extension.
2. achieving an agreement with Finning and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, with input from the City of Vancouver, as to the precise alignment and related design issues for the Finning to Main Extension.
3. receiving Provincial approval to fund the Finning to Main Extension.
4. engaging in a public consultation process as to the design implications of the North Alignment including the segment in the Grandview Cut and the Finning to Main Extension.
5. achieving agreement with TransLink on this issue and other regional issues contemplated in the Negotiator's Agreement,
and THAT the Manager, Rapid Transit be directed to seek a memorandum of understanding with Rapid Transit Project2000 to that effect, and THAT the City Manager be authorized to enter into such memorandum.
D. THAT the Manager, Rapid Transit, in consultation with the Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of Central Area Planning, report back to Council if the items set out in RECOMMENDATION C are not likely to be achieved by September 30, 1999.
E. THAT if the items set out in RECOMMENDATION C are not achieved, and it appears from the advice of staff as set out in RECOMMENDATION D that Council's assumption in expressing its preference is incorrect, then Council prefers the South Alignment, under Broadway to VCC, as shown in Appendix A.
F. THAT Council acknowledge that the issue of the North Alignment, particularly the Finning to Main Extension, is one of several interrelated regional issues contemplated by the Negotiator's Agreement and that several of those issues, including the station at Lougheed Mall, require a level of certainty similar to that contemplated in RECOMMENDATION C.
G. THAT the City supports TransLink in its efforts to achieve early certainty around the issues contemplated in the Negotiators Agreement, and requests TransLink to incorporate RECOMMENDATION C into its regional negotiations.
H. THAT while the results of the joint Phase 2 Study to determine a route, technology and a western terminus will not be available for Council's consideration until late fall of 1999, the Negotiator's Agreement provides for cost sharing of SkyTrain technology only, and therefore Council requests Rapid Transit Project2000 undertake the preliminary engineering work required to complete the cost estimates for SkyTrain technology underground from a station in the vicinity of Main and Broadway to Arbutus Street in order that a timely decision can be made as to and end point.
GENERAL MANAGER'S COMMENTS
The General Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of Central Area Planning recommend approval of Recommendations A to H.
Staff will work with the Province on planning for the Phase 1 SkyTrain route, alignment, station locations and station area planning.
The purposes of this report are to:
1. recommend a SkyTrain alignment from the approved Commercial station location on the north bank of the Grandview Cut, immediately east of Commercial Drive, to an underground station in the vicinity of Main and Broadway via the Finning lands in the False Creek Flats.
2. compare the original SkyTrain alignment in a tunnel under Broadway with the alternative alignment via the Finning lands, between the two common points: starting at the new Commercial Station and ending at a terminus at Main (at Broadway), on the basis of land use, transportation, cost and other relevant criteria.
3. describe the recommended alignment in the context of the Negotiator's Agreement recently signed between TransLink and the Province and the joint Phase 2 Study.
The Provincial Government's presently approved western terminus for the Phase 1 SkyTrain base alignment is at Vancouver Community College (VCC) at Broadway and Glen Drive. The alignment from Commercial Drive to VCC is as follows: from the new station on the north side of the Grandview Cut at Commercial, the guideway crosses the Grandview Cut to the south side and enters a mined tunnel at approximately 8th Avenue, terminating at an underground station on the south side of VCC, shown as "VCC South" on Appendix A.
During the planning and design phase, the following issues arose:
1. A significant and expensive engineering challenge to design and construct the underground station at VCC over the large China Creek sewer, in poor soil conditions.
2. A concern by the public with safety and security at the proposed underground station at VCC and a potential increase in crime in the surrounding area.
In addition, City staff and the Rapid Transit Project2000 identified an opportunity for SkyTrain to act as a catalyst for development in the new I-3 zone in the False Creek Flats.
To address these issues, City staff and Rapid Transit Project2000 explored other alignment options. These options all continued west on the north side of the Grandview Cut passing underneath the Woodland Drive Bridge, crossing over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks, and passing under the Clark Drive Bridge. A number of workable options west of Clark Drive emerged, including routes on Great Northern Way and through the Finning lands, all returning to the vicinity of Broadway at Main.
In consultation with Finning, Rapid Transit Project2000 consultants selected one of the alignment options for further consideration by Council, TransLink and other stakeholders.
Concurrent with this work, on June 20, 1999 TransLink and the Province executed the "SkyTrain Negotiator's Agreement on Cost-Sharing and Construction of SkyTrain Extensions". The Agreement addresses SkyTrain extension in Vancouver in three segments: the segment from Boundary Road to Commercial Drive, the segment from Commercial Drive to VCC, and the segment west of VCC. For the segment from Commercial Drive to VCC, the Agreement provides that the City will have the opportunity to select its preferred alignment option, in consultation with TransLink and the Province, and that this decision will be made by July 31, 1999.
This report provides Council with the information necessary for Council to select its preferred alignment option, and describes the option in the context of the Negotiator's Agreement and the Phase 2 Study.
COMPARISON OF THE TWO ALIGNMENTS - TO MAIN UNDER BROADWAY OR VIA THE FINNING LANDS
In this report:
1. The alignment from Commercial Drive to Main Street at Broadway via the Finning lands is called the "North Alignment". The portion of the Northern Alignment from Commercial Drive to VCC is called "VCC North". The portion from VCC to Broadway at Main is called the "Finning to Main Extension".
2. The alignment from Commercial Drive to Main Street at Broadway via Broadway (underground) is called the "South Alignment". The portion of the Southern alignment from Commercial Drive to VCC is called "VCC South".
Rapid Transit Project2000 and City staff have completed a comparison of the North Alignment and the South Alignment, both of which are shown on Appendix A and described in detail on Appendix B.
From a land use and transportation planning perspective, the two alignments can only be compared in a meaningful way if they start at a common point (the new station at Commercial Drive, now in the design phase) and continue to a second common point (Broadway at Main Street). Moreover, for reasons outlined later in the report, there is no advantage in an alignment to a station at VCC north without making the assumption that it will continue further west to shape the new undeveloped I-3 zone in the False Creek Flats. From there, to achieve regional and City transportation and land use objectives, the alignment must return to the Broadway corridor, to extend transit, by whatever means, to serve Central Broadway. Similarly, there is no advantage in an alignment to a station at VCC south without making the assumption that it will be connected to transit by whatever means further west in the Broadway corridor to serve Central Broadway.
For these reasons, the detailed comparison set out in Appendix B compares alignments from Commercial to Main via the North Alignment and South Alignment.
Results of Comparison
On the basis of the above comparison, the North Alignment is superior to the South Alignment for the following reasons:
1. barring a significant land use policy change, a South Alignment under Broadway will primarily serve a relatively stable land use; the North alignment through the new I-3 zone in the False Creek Flats provides the City the opportunity to take advantage of the SkyTrain system to encourage and shape future, transit oriented development.
2. while on a strictly technical basis, ridership appears to be approximately the same on both alignments, the potential for an increase in ridership is likely greater on the North Alignment as the planned Finning and adjacent high tech industrial sites build out.
3. constructing the South Alignment under Broadway would be difficult and have significant impacts on VCC and the surrounding neighbourhoods and to bus, truck and general purpose traffic on Broadway.
4. the North Alignment through Finning will reduce the allocation of future conventional bus resources required to serve the Finning development and other development in the False Creek Flats.
5. based on the preliminary cost estimates provided by Rapid Transit Project2000, and recognizing that the design implications have yet to be resolved, the North Alignment appears to be marginally less expensive, but with an extra station at Finning.
Only part of the North Alignment has been discussed with the public. The route options presented to the public in the early open houses included options in the Cut to the north side of VCC. Generally, the public did not indicate a preference. Most of the comments related to safety and security in and around the VCC underground station and the potential for increased crime in the area, particularly near Queen Alexandra Elementary School at Broadway and Clark Drive.
The portion of the Northern Alignment west of VCC has not been the subject of a broad public consultation process. However, the Rapid Transit Project2000 and City staff have met with three key stakeholders: VCC, Finning and QuadraLogic PhotoTherapeutics.
Rapid Transit Project2000 met with the Director of Facilities of VCC in the fall and spring. In addition, the VCC Board of Directors considered the South Alignment in November 1998.
Rapid Transit Project2000 and the Manager, Rapid Transit met with the Vice President, Finance & Administration and the Vice President, Educational Support Services of VCC and reviewed the Northern Alignment with them. They commented favourably on the North Alignment, particularly with respect to the potential for expanding their facility to the parking lot near Great Northern Way on the north side of the existing buildings. They indicated that as between the North and South Alignments, the North Alignment better addresses the concerns of the Board raised at its November meeting. They noted that the first opportunity for the Director of Facilities to report to the Board would be September, but that they expected the report would be favourable. Rapid Transit Project2000 committed to working closely with a committee of the administration of VCC on the detailed design of the station.
Rapid Transit Project2000 and City staff have met with Finning and its consultants. Finning strongly supports rapid transit to the site. The end users envisioned for the development demand excellent public transit service. To that end, Finning sees a station as a key part of I-3 development, and particularly for the vision they and the City have developed.
Finning has indicated to Rapid Transit Project2000 that they will provide the right of way at no cost. However, Finning has concerns regarding the design of the alignment, particularly on the eastern end of the site. They have indicated that the only acceptable SkyTrain alignment is below the new finished grade on the Finning lands. City staff understand that the current preliminary design is consistent with Finning's objectives. However, Recommendation C provides that Council's preference in favour of the North Alignment is conditional upon Finning and Rapid Transit Project2000, with input from the City, addressing the City's and Finning's design concerns and achieving an agreement with Finning.
City staff and Rapid Transit Project2000 have identified that there may be an issue with BNSF regarding the BNSF land immediately to the east of the Finning land between the Grandview Cut and Finning. Rapid Transit Project2000 will have to make suitable arrangements with BNSF for the use of that land, which may involve track relocation.
Quadralogic PhotoTherapeutics (QLT)
QLT's new building is under construction on 2.3 acres formally owned by Finning at the eastern edge of the Finning property, just west of the Clark Drive Bridge. As proposed, the SkyTrain guideway would transition from an elevated guideway to an at grade guideway approximately opposite the QLT building. Though the discussions have not been as extensive as those with Finning, QLT's consultants have indicated that QLT supports SkyTrain on the BNSF land adjacent to their site. However, as with Finning, QLT has design concerns. Staff understand that Rapid Transit Project2000 will consult with QLT as to the guideway design.
THE IMPACT OF THE NORTH ALIGNMENT ON PHASE 1 LAND AND THE NEGOTIATOR'S AGREEMENT
The Province designed the phasing of the SkyTrain extension such that the terminus of Phase 1 is VCC. Anything west of VCC is part of Phase 2, and technically outside the scope and budget of Phase 1.
Generally speaking, all of the regional planning, and the City Transportation Plan support rapid transit on the Broadway Corridor. For the reasons outlined above, changing the alignment to leave the corridor, accessing the North side of VCC is in the interests of the City, but only on the assumption that the alignment continues west, to access and shape the new 1-3 zone in False Creek Flats and return to the Corridor. For that reason, City staff and TransLink have been attempting to achieve certainty from the Province that if the City supports the North Alignment, funding is in place to construct SkyTrain to the False Creek Flats, and to return to the Corridor in the vicinity of Main and Broadway. Depending on the outcome of the Phase 2 Study, the connection west to Central Broadway and to UBC, be it rapid bus, LRT or SkyTrain, will be on the Corridor, consistent with transportation planning policy.
Rapid Transit Project2000 supports the North Alignment, in part because it sees the opportunity to shape development, but also because on the basis of the preliminary cost estimates, the VCC North alignment is in the order of $50m less to construct than VCC South. Note that the cost saving applies to the segment from the new Commercial Drive station to VCC. If the alignment continues to Main at Broadway, the difference in cost between the North and South Alignments is not significant.
As of the date of this Report, Rapid Transit Project2000 does not have approval to continue the alignment west of VCC, as described. Recommendation C provides that Council's endorsement of an alignment that leaves the Broadway Corridor (thereby realizing considerable savings) is conditional upon resolution of a number of issues (including publicconsultation) - but the primary condition is the certainty that SkyTrain will reach the False Creek Flats (Finning lands) and return to the Corridor, thus achieving the City's objective for leaving the Corridor in the first place. Recommendation C also directs the Manager, Rapid Transit, to seek that certainty from the Province. RECOMMENDATION E provides that if this certainty is not available, Council does not endorse leaving the Broadway Corridor. Recommendation E directs the Manager, Rapid Transit and the Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of Central Area Planning to inform Council as to their progress in achieving that certainty.
The Negotiator's Agreement provides that construction of SkyTrain west of VCC will be cost shared 67% by the Province, and 33% by TransLink. The Province will only contribute if the technology is SkyTrain. As described earlier in this report, for the segment from Commercial Drive to VCC, the Agreement provides that the City will have the opportunity to select its preferred alignment option, in consultation with TransLink and the Province, and that this decision will be made by July 31, 1999. Cost savings achieved from Commercial Drive to VCC North may be applied to a western extension (if one is built) or to other parts of the system.
The Agreement also describes the need for the Province and TransLink to review and define the Lougheed Mall Station, and confirm the alignment and configuration. Like the North Alignment, this encroachment into what is technically Phase 2 of the SkyTrain extension may be a wise decision from a transportation and land use perspective. TransLink is facing similar uncertainty with the Lougheed Mall review in that Rapid Transit Project2000 does not have approval beyond the technical, somewhat artificial definition of Phase 1. Recommendations F and G recognize that given that TransLink has an agreement in place to address these issues, it is appropriate for the City and the other member municipalities of TransLink to work together to resolve these issues in a way that is consistent with the Negotiator's Agreement, and in the interests of the region as a whole. This may mean that the Province and TransLink, in the interests of sound planning, may need to revisit the definition of Phase 1 and Phase 2 to deal with the end point issues, so that each Phase makes sense on its own.
Finally, the City's joint Phase 2 Study to a western terminus is underway. The recommendations of the Consultant, BRW, will not be available until fall. However, the Negotiator's Agreement provides that the Province will only contribute if the technology is SkyTrain. In order for the City and TransLink to fully understand the financial aspects of their ultimate decision, it will be important to understand with some precision, the cost estimates to construct SkyTrain further west. RECOMMENDATION H requests Rapid Transit Project2000 to begin the preliminary engineering work necessary to achieve somecertainty around the cost estimates, so that the City and TransLink can make a fully informed decision on the basis of the Consultant's recommendations.
City staff have concluded that, on the assumption SkyTrain continues to the False Creek Flats and returns to the Broadway Corridor, and on the assumption the design concerns can be addressed, the North Alignment is preferable.
The issue is achieving certainty that the alignment will continue as assumed. Staff believe that the City will have the best chance of obtaining this certainty if this issue is resolved with the resolution of similar issues in the region through negotiations between TransLink and the Province as described in the Negotiator's Agreement.
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Comparison of the North and South Alignments
The two routes are shown in Appendix A.
The South Alignment is in tunnel from the new station in the Cut at Commercial Drive diagonally under various private properties to Broadway and Woodland Drive and continuing underground under Broadway (with an underground station at VCC) to an underground station at Main.
The North Alignment continues west on the north bank of the Cut, crosses over the BNSF tracks, under the Clark Drive Bridge and drops down to an elevated station north of VCC one block west of Clark at Keith before continuing down onto the Finning lands. Appendix A shows the plan view as well as the vertical profile of the guideway from the Commercial Station to Main Street including through the Finning lands. Within the Finning lands the alignment is in a boxed culvert (on the eastern half of the site it will be excavated with some fill to aid in the transition of grades, on the western portion of the site, fill will be used to raise the ground level of the Finning site so that the various new roads or development could be built on top of the boxed culvert) with a "below grade" station east of the extension of St. George Street. At the western end of the site, the alignment turns to the south; enters a tunnel portal on the north side of Great Northern Way at Prince Edward Street; climbs in a tunnel under Prince Edward Street to Broadway, and turns west to enter an underground station in the vicinity of Main/Kingsway/Broadway.
The North Alignment is about 560 metres longer than the South Alignment and has one extra station (Finning). It takes about 1.6 minutes longer (including station stops) to travel the North Alignment.
Based on the current estimates generated by Rapid Transit Project2000, staff understand the capital cost of the South Alignment is $282.4m and the capital cost of the North Alignment is $279.3m. However, staff have not independently verified these estimates. In addition, the estimates are preliminary, and will likely change once more detailed engineering and design work, particularly on the Finning development site, is complete.
Staff understand the total system-wide SkyTrain operating costs (to TransLink) of the North Alignment will increase to $53.5m. annually in 2003, $900,000 more than theSouth Alignment because of the additional length of the line and additional 2 vehicles. Again, these estimates are preliminary.
The VCC South Alignment station area has a future residential population area of about 6300 people and a future employment population of about 3300 jobs. The VCC North Alignment station area has a future residential population of about 5000 people and a future job population in the order of 5500. The Finning station area has future residential population of about 5500 people and a future job population in the order of 8500.
In the absence of fundamental changes in land use policies, residential and job populations along Broadway (South Alignment) will remain relatively stable over the long term. Residential populations along the Finning (North Alignment) corridor will also remain relatively stable. However, over time the Finning (North Alignment) corridor will likely undergo a significant increase in jobs as development takes place consistent with the new I-3 zone in the False Creek flats.
When comparing the two alternatives in the longer term, the North Alignment is clearly superior to the South Alignment. As the Finning and other I-3 zoned sites in the False Creek Flats redevelop, it is reasonable to expect the job population to increase around the two stations. The City has an opportunity to use SkyTrain as a catalyst to achieve its land use goals in this area.
South Alignment (Broadway)
The #9 and #99B would likely remain unchanged. The #9 would continue to operate between Boundary Road and UBC. The #99B would likely continue to operate between Commercial Drive and UBC with some buses short turning at Main Street. This would be necessary to avoid an additional transfer for passengers arriving on the existing SkyTrain line from New Westminster and travelling to destinations west of Main.
As the Finning site develops it would have to be served by conventional bus (possibly also by the City's proposed street car), with connections provided to the existing Main Street Station at Terminal, the new station at Main and Broadway and likely to Broadway and Commercial.
The walking distance between the VCC station under Broadway and the existing #22 service on Clark Drive is about 260 metres.
North Alignment (Finning)
The #9 and #99B services on Broadway would likely remain unchanged. The Finning site would be well served by SkyTrain, which would obviate the need for additional TransLink bus resources to serve this site (reduced bus capital and operating costs). TransLink expects the increased SkyTrain operating costs would be more than offset by the savings in bus operating costs.
The walking distance between the proposed VCC North station and the existing #22 service on Clark Drive is 110 metres.
The North Alignment is superior because:
1. The walking distance between the VCC station and the #22 bus route on Clark is much closer
2. Fewer bus resources are required to properly serve the Finning site
Rapid Transit Project2000 used the EMME/2 transportation computer model to analyse both route options. The results were inconclusive, in part because the two alignments and stations are so close to each other. As well, the land use component of the EMME model does not yet include the future I-3 and Finning job population projections. At the request of staff, Rapid Transit Project2000 have agreed to undertake further ridership analysis based on the job population projections for Finning and other I-3 sites in the False Creek Flats.
However, in the absence of detailed EMME/2 modelling, as described above, the North Alignment has significantly more potential jobs than the South Alignment. It is generally accepted that employment land uses have a higher transit trip generation rate than residential land uses, especially if a comprehensive, well connected and attractive transit system is provided. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that the North Alignment has a much greater potential to attract riders than the South Alignment, both locally and on a system-wide basis.
The soil conditions under Broadway are poor and therefore the portion of the tunnel from Clark to Glen Drive and the VCC south station will have to be constructed using the "cut and cover" technique. Staff anticipate considerable noise and vibration, particularly for VCC. In addition, staff anticipate traffic disruption on Broadway including likely detouring of bus and truck traffic, and possibly complete closure of Broadway during some or all of the construction phase. Bus detours are particularly problematic because they are trolleys.
Staff understand that any future Phase 2 tunnel construction will use a boring machine. This construction will have to start at the western terminus because the station at VCC would be in operation. Phase 2 construction will require a significant staging area. Depending on the western terminus of Phase 2, this could be at Cambie or Granville. Tunnel spoil material would be removed at this point and trucked away.
The guideway from Commercial to the Finning site, including the station at VCC would be elevated, with less construction disruption. In addition, the VCC north station is closer to the VCC parking lot, near Great Northern Way, rather than immediately adjacent to the library and other noise sensitive areas on the south side of the VCC building.
Construction of the elevated and "boxed culvert" sections through the Finning site are more conventional, less complicated and less disruptive than the cut and cover construction required for the South Alignment. The tunnel component under Prince Edward Street between Finning and Broadway would use a boring machine. A significant area for construction staging is likely available on the Finning site. Tunnel spoil material would be removed from the tunnel at the Finning end and could be removed by road or by rail.
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